Tips to manage office stress and boost productivity


Tips to manage office stress and boost productivity. PHOTO | POOL

Let us collectively decide that 2023 will be the year that we dramatically reduce our workplace-related stress and lead more fulfilling lives. 

Psychologists at the University of Hawaii dictate that stress entails an adaptive response to a situation that someone perceives as challenging or threatening to their well-being.

Perhaps no job exists on the planet that does not entail some levels of stress. Our brains take our bodies through three stages as we adapt to stress.

First, we react to the stressor in the alarm reactor stage. Our reactions drop below our normal resistance level. 

Next, we experience heightened resistance in the second stage. 

Then, our body lowers its resistance in the exhaustion stage.

Please recognise that if you find yourself going through the stages with intensive frequency, you must implement a change at work. 

READ: Dealing with stress related to workplace

The three stages of stress, as detailed by Brianna Chu, Komal Marwaha, Terrence Sanvictores, and Derek Ayers are the alarm reaction phase, resistance phase, and exhaustion phase. 

These intense stages cause three main problems in our lives.  First, stress leads to physiological consequences including cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, headaches, and of course sexual dysfunction. 

Second, the behavioural consequences of stress include, but are not limited to, diminished work performance, accidents, poor decisions, increased absenteeism, and workplace aggression. 

Third, psychological consequences of stress include depression, moodiness, and emotional fatigue. 

Now, hopefully, we may all agree in unison that we should not allow a constant state of stress as the modus operandi in our workplaces. So, let us examine how we may reduce stress in our work environments.

In so doing, we must first understand the causes of workplace stress. 

The physical environment, job role, and organisational, and interpersonal conditions all play large parts in impacting our tension levels. If a workplace involves taxing conditions then the harsh physical environment certainly leads to stress. 

Alternatively, an open floor plan office layout with many desks in one room instead of separate offices may cause significant stress to introverted employees.

Stress related to one’s job role takes root in the ambiguity of your job description, too much or too little workload, no control over your work schedule, and internal conflict between your personality type and the role. 

Stress involving interpersonal issues emanates from conflict with your coworkers, too much teamwork required at your office, and workplace bullying along with the more extreme sexual harassment and violence sometimes present in organisations. 

Employees often carry non-work stress into the workplace that accentuates office pressures. Perhaps navigating the jam from Buru Buru to Upper Hill Monday through Friday creates too little personal time outside of work. 

Sometimes ridiculously long work hours exacerbate tensions.  Often working parents do double duty by going home and managing children and a household after work hours.  All such personal strains may impact stress at work.

Each of us perceives stress differently. Maybe we become more or less stressed depending on our own reactions to stressors.  Realistically, people perceive situations differently. 

Employees with high self-efficacy have a greater view of their own skills and capabilities which, in turn, causes stress levels to reduce. 

Also, those closer to the locus of control in an organisation exhibit less stress as they feel more influence over their situation. 

Other employees demonstrate a higher threshold of resistance to stressors.  We may practice improving our self-efficacy, but we may also incorporate stress-coping strategies.

First, recognise from the different stressors listed above, which ones apply to your situation.  Might you possibly eliminate or reduce the causes?  Perhaps try to behave less like a “type A personality” and more in the nature of a “type B personality”. 

A type A person talks rapidly, overly devotes him or herself to work, lives highly competitively, struggles to perform several tasks, exhibits a strong sense of time urgency, becomes impatient with idleness, loses his or her temper easily, and interrupts others.

Do we all know someone like this at our workplace?  How many of us recognise ourselves in some or all of the type A personality descriptions?

A type B individual, on the other hand, handles details patiently, works less competitively, contemplates issues carefully, lives less concerned about time limitations, does not feel guilty about fitting in relaxing time, maintains a relaxed approach to life, and works at a steady pace. 

Which of these more healthy traits might you incorporate into your behaviour pattern?

Further, an employee might withdraw from the stressor on a permanent basis by changing jobs or industries to a better job fit or on a temporary basis by taking a holiday or work break. 

READ: BELLOWS: Managing expectations of new employee in 2023

Also, by changing one’s own stress perceptions, an employee may reduce anxiety by increasing their own views about their ability, again called self-efficacy, and more self-leadership. 

A worker may also tackle the negative health consequences of stress head-on by implementing lifestyle and fitness programs, relaxation and meditation, and employee counselling. 

Additionally, social support through emotional interactions and information provisions may greatly reduce stress loads. 

However, be wary because research shows that actually complaining bitterly to coworkers, rather than seeking emotional support, actually increases stress levels.

If you desire to permanently withdraw from your job or industry as one of your stressors, then contemplate entering a lower-stress profession such as an accountant, artist, auto mechanic, or professor. 

Avoid high-stress careers, such as a mid-level politician, waiter or waitress, air traffic controller, or General Service Unit officer.  Careers with medium stress levels include medical doctors, psychologists, hospital managers, and school principals.

Finally, as a boss, look out for the following warning signs that your employees might enter the job burnout process. 

Inter-personal and role-related stressors cause emotional exhaustion, which leads to the employee detaching emotionally from the job and workplace, called depersonalisation, which then ultimately reduces the employee’s personal accomplishments and job performance.

In summary, whether as a manager or stressed-out employee, know the effects of stress, learn to manage stress, and seek guidance if you or your employees experience burnout.